Do you think Christian records will ever be accepted in the pop field?
It's according to what you mean by Christian records. I don't think the pop market will ever accept the cultural trappings which sooften accompany contemporary Christian messages. Here's George Gallup running around the country telling us that well overhalf of all Americans are "born again". Well then, why don't Christian records share well over half the sales figures with otherrecords? I think there are fewer real Christians than the pollsters have realised. So then we have the opposite reactions bythose in the Christian market, namely, "Oh, the Devil owns this wicked world and, therefore, the record business, and so it isno wonder they run and hide from us when we try to bring them the Gospel message!" So then, it's comfortable to pass the buck toSatan and turn your back. I don't think an honest attempt has been made yet by large numbers of Christians with access to themedia, to be truthful in their messages, yet without cultural additions from Christian circles. You cannot expect someone whodoes not know or presently care if God exists to understand what "Hallelujah" means to you and your Bible study group.I think the truth can still be communicated after being stripped of unnecessary cultural overtones.
How can Christians become aware of the "Secular" thought forms around them?
That's a good question. How can you explain your frame of reference to somebody if they will only view it through their frame ofreference? How can you try to explain a foreign culture to somebody who will probably never understand another culture,primarily due to the fact that he thinks he understands the other culture already? He has a defined niche for it in his presentframe of reference and any new information is simply guided to the proper pigeonholes, right beside other particulars which arethought to be familiar and understood by him. Why is it so hard to surprise someone with reality? One should be at timessurprised to see it with objective eyes, or another pair than one's own. How can you explain colour to a blind man, especially ifhe already thinks that he understands the concept of colour? How can you give himsight, surprise him, confront him with the way things are outside his world?
I think it is desirable to be able to see things in more than one way, from morethan one vantage point. That is the purpose I think education should be capable of fulfilling, but how do you break down wallsgently and properly? You can't tell someone that the world they see is not the real world, after they've believed it formany years. How do you strive to take somebody's mind on a trip so real that they others' thoughts from the inside? It takesa lot of creativity to do that, but that is what must be done if whole people are to be the products of the educational process,and I don't just mean in the school system; our education comes as much from those around us as it does from books and teachers.
You've spoken a good bit about Contemporary media influence on the popular level in society. Do you think the death of Marshall McLuhan will have any significant effect on thought forms in media circles?
Probably not, on the popular level. McLuhan was more of an observer than a consultantanyway, and any effect he had on the media themselves was probably rather indirect. Of course his most famous observation, "themedium is the message" has turned out to be relatively ture, I think, but with exceptions. By that he meant that the effect of thenature of the media themselves is more significant than the effect of any content which the media have been used to convey.Anything you put on television, for example, loses much of its impact by the fact that it's just something else on television. Anewspaper is always the same number of pages whether there's any news or not. I think Christians have been prey to thisphenomenon on broadcasting Christian shows that look like every other show. The message can become just one more of themyriad of opinions thrown at us by the electronic toys we've surrounded ourselves with, with fillers to make it standard broadcast length.
You make phonograph records. In considering media as environments, according to McLuhan, couldn't phonograph records also be viewed as prisons for the content they are wished to convey?
Yes; I think, however, the question of whether the content of any medium is eligiblefor parole to the thinker is still a valid one. One might also say that since familiarity breeds contempt, the cumulative effect of thecontent of a recording is lost by its repeated playback. That is a very real danger, but to the willing, content can still be gotten, evenfrom well-worn discs. The same is true of oft-repeated phrases, and the battle is not entirely new.
How do you think media influences people?
I agree with McLuhan that those of us born in the latter half of this century are influenced to a higher degree than we mayrealise by the media bombardment we have grown so accustomed to. Man made the media, and now they are making him, tellinghim what he is. Media can destroy a culture by encouraging popular or expected feedback patterns instead of true, and heartfelt ones.The real us can be lost in the us media have given us.
I read a book by an anthropologist whonoted the demise of Eskimo art in in Northern Canada. It seems some art dealers discovered genuine Eskimo art pieces and saw themas marketable. But in the meantime, they encourage the Eskimos to modify the art, so it would be more like mostpeople's preconceived notions of Eskimo art. The product the Eskimos ended up turning out had little resemblance to their originalfolk-art, but the public never knew that. The next generation of Eskimo artists had never seen the original art, and each artistproducing works to the specifications of the art dealers thought he was making genuine original Eskimo art. So, they had been toldwho they were, and they had believed it. Something irreplaceable was lost in the process.
Likewise, media would encourage a saleable culture to dominate a real one, and the next generation's self-identity would be molded inpart by it. If you tell people what they are long enough, pretty soon they will start to believe it. Their children will grow up neverknowing they are not what they would have been without the outside influence. This iswhat media have done in answer to the question, "what is man?" We're only nowstarting to realise it's effects on oursleves. And however nobel the original intention, this is exactly what has happened as wellwith Christian media. We have told ourselves popular and saleable ideas about what Christians are, and we have believed what wetold ourselves. Now, many people are financially involved, so it is harder and harder to break away and seek out what we reallyare. But I think it is time more of us were concerned with reality, and not let the nature of media and public opinion manipulate usany longer. But we have to keep our eyes open. We have to find out what manner of creature we are, and ignore popular ideas andthe things we've told ourselves about ourselves over the years. We have to fight to keep the sociological dominoes from sweeping us intotheir falling pattern, whether the pressure is from secular society or Christian society. We have to learn to think for ourselves.
Do you think hype can occur in the promotion of "Christian" products?
Yes, I do. What is hype? It's just finding out what you think the most people wantand then saying it in an exciting way that you have something that meets all those criteria. In the secular fields, you can do itwith sex, sales figures, anything. In the Christian field, you can do it that way too, or even worse, you can do it with conformityand orthodoxy. You can do it with promises of spirituality. It can be so unreal, but people will go for it. It sickens me at times. I don'twant the next generation thinking this is normal. We hear so much hype, and not enough truth any more. This is another sadside effect of the media on our Christian endeavours. Is it possible to inform a publicof a product using the truth and not hype, or will the nature of promotion itself, havingbeen established by secular media, reduce even a truthful statement about a "product" to a form of hype? We have all been told toplay Wizard of Oz for so long, that pretty soon, no one will know how to look behind the curtain.
( New Christian Music, Vol. 3 No. 5, 1984? )
INTERVIEWS & ARTICLES